From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Old friends helping Lib candidate? We know that Tim Smith will find himself in Victorian Parliament after Saturday’s election no matter who forms government, but whether he will have many friends there is another question entirely. Smith started his campaign on the wrong foot in his own party after winning preselection for the safe seat of Kew from Mary Wooldridge, who was supposed to be parachuted in after her seat of Doncaster disappeared in redistribution. Luckily for Smith, we hear from a tipster that he does still have friends at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he worked for three years:

“On Friday afternoon at 3 pm I was handing out how to vote cards at the Kew early polling booth on the corner of Studley Park Rd and Princes St.  I was surprised to see four men (two young, two obviously retirees) wearing liberal party T-Shirts and the local liberal candidate Tim Smith handing out how to vote liberal cards. When I commented that we would be out numbered if they started a fight, one of the young men said there are a lot of people at PWC who want to see Tim win and that PWC had given them time off work to hand out cards for the liberal party.”

We put this to both PwC and Smith, who denied it, saying the claim was “absolute garbage”. Seen any interesting campaign tactics in the lead-up to the Victorian election? Let us know.

Who will get Ku-ring-gai? It was only two weeks ago that former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell told us that rumours he was leaving politics were “bullshit”, but last night he redefined that term by announcing that he was leaving NSW politics at the next election. While O”Farrell hasn’t given much away about what he will do next, speculation has now moved to who will be preselected for the safe seat of Ku-ring-gai. Says a tipster:

“In Liberal Party circles there will be alot of intrigue and jockeying about who will succeed O’Farrell in the plum Ku-ring-gai seat. Possible successors include Sydney barrister Alister Henskens SC, former president of the local branch. O’Farrell once rebuffed him, saying that if Henskens was ever elected as a Liberal MP he would never be a minister in a government led by O’Farrell. With that obstacle now removed, it will be interesting to see who — whether Henskens or someone else — will seek preselection.”

We called Henskens repeatedly this morning to see if he would put his hat in the ring, but our calls were not returned. Of course preselection is up to the local members, not O’Farrell, but we hear from other sources that the ex-premier favours a female candidate for the seat. According to the tipster, his preferred candidate is Carolyn Cameron, who is president of the branch’s State Electoral Conference (SEC) and she most likely has the numbers. We’ll be watching with interest.

Resources and recruitment at the WA DAA. We were told by a tipster to have a look into the practices at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Western Australia, as we were told there many questions to be asked about Director General Cliff Weeks’ perks and the department’s hiring and firing practices. We obliged accordingly, putting a range of questions to the department and receiving many response from the spokesperson. According to our tipster the DAA is a top-heavy organisation, with a senior team that has “doubled since 2011”, but a DAA spokesperson told us that was wrong, saying: “Executive level positions have increased by just two since 2011. In this time, the department has restructured its operational areas to align with delivering against its legislative responsibilities.”

According to our tipster, the department struggled to fill the role of executive assistant to the Director General recently, after high turnover in recent years. The DAA denied the claim that there was a high turnover of the position, saying: “In the past two years, there have been four occupants of this position, including the current occupant. The three previous occupants, including one who substantively occupies the position, left the position to take up higher duties acting opportunities, within the department. The department is committed to providing development opportunities for staff including through higher duties acting.”

Our tipster also accused the Director General of snagging two car spaces, and until recently, three. According to our source, car spaces are a scarce resource at the department. When we put that to the DAA spokesman, he told us: “There is one parking space allocated to the Director General. The parking space adjacent to the Director General is allocated for the use of the Director General’s visitors.” On the third car park, we were told “Three parking spaces were previously allocated to the chairpersons of the Department’s boards and committees and were used intermittently. One of these spaces was used for a short period by the Director General. These spaces were recently rationalised to one shared parking space.”

Picking your audience. The banking world is waiting with bated breath for the release of David Murray’s Financial System Inquiry report, which is due to be handed to the government by the end of the month. It seems that reporters are staking out Murray’s public appearances to get word on the report, but were disappointed yesterday:

“Just something amusing — David Murray spoke at today’s Financial Services Council lunch. All the major media companies were in attendance and we were all expecting him to say something about the Financial Services Inquiry. Murray did not mention the inquiry at all. He spoke about ‘leadership’ including building a supportive culture and ensuring trust with consumers. This is from a former head of CBA who spearheaded the acquisition of Colonial (a disaster both from a cultural point of view and business. His comments on the recent financial planning practices really began under his watch when commissions were a normal part of the remuneration and conflicts of interest was rife). Needless to say I don’t think many journalists were impressed — probably expecting more on the FSI.”

ABC grumblings. When it comes to job cuts at the ABC, everyone has an opinion, and almost all staff will argue that their department shouldn’t be the one to be cut. We hear from this tipster that some at the ABC are pointing the finger at News24 for fat that should be trimmed:

“News 24 IS the elephant in the room that we’re never allowed to discuss. It is sucking up our resources (money, people, time) and Senator Bridget McKenzie was right on RN Breakfast this morning. Why for example do we have two serious presenters aiming to ‘take it up to Kochie and Karl’ on a breakfast program that provides low rent content and is hardly watched? Why is 24 insulated? It’s wrong.”

Sunday Night staff rumblings. Following yesterday’s tip that 60 Minutes‘ Gareth Harvey was the top pick to replace Mark Llewellyn at Sunday Night, we received this from an insider telling us we were on the money — or at least staff hope we are:

“Staff have been sharing your article madly. Insiders and the industry are flummoxed by the idea the Seven is going to advertise the position of EP — no-one of the calibre for the job would ever consider ‘applying’. The smart money and staff hopes are on Gareth Harvey who is considered a ‘game changer’, but it’ll cause a bombshell at Nine.”

Halls of power go high fashion. Ms Tips often notices the fashion that graces the halls of Parliament, whether it’s a nice suit or eye-catching brooch (Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is often decked out in one of these), but this week clothing choices are gaining more attention as part of the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Fashion’s push to have MPs and senators wear outfits made by designers from their own electorates. Ms Tips applauds this OOTD (“outfit of the day” for the uninitiated) by Northern Territory MP Natasha Griggs.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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